Can Gerry Robinson Fix Dementia Care Homes – thoughts after the series.

Last week, I wrote about the programme in general and my thoughts after watching the first in the two-part series presented and put together by Gerry Robinson which explores care homes and how they can be improved.

In the meantime, the Guardian has published an article on their ‘Joe Public’ blog highlighting some of the negatives about the programme and its aim stating that, for all Gerry’s good intentions

the programme undermines itself through glib responses and cheap-shot TV documentary trickery. Gerry’s saintly interventions with residents are contrasted with portraits of indifferent, surly staff and a collage of shots of a favoured home suggests wildly unrealistic levels of staff and activities.

More seriously there is a disingenuous failure to acknowledge basic truths about the relationship between care costs and quality. The ambush and skewering of a breathtakingly stupid general nurse in temporary charge of a home and telegenic shots of the suffering there are frankly exploitative.

Perhaps I’m viewing it through different eyes and I can understand an accusion of exploitation. I recognised a reality in the programme that needs to be more widely seen. I don’t think all the staff, even those in some of the worse homes, were presented as surly or indifferent. I think what did come across that there is little funding in the sector and a drive for profits at the expense of good staffing ratios.

Partly, this is due to the costs of staffing and this was highlighted in the programmes. Private sector, profit-making companies have little incentive to up staff ratios if no demands are made of them.

The other element that was highlighted was the poor inspection regime – the best way to improve quality of care is to improve motivation and numbers of staff. Good quality staff are happy staff. Staff who are pushed to the limits cannot provide any quality interaction when they are running between one person and another attending solely to personal care with no time for the interactions to have much quality to them. Staff don’t want to work like that. They want to engage and have a job beyond washing and changing. Interaction makes a job more interesting and exciting.

Often it is about time – and time is precious. The relationship between care costs and quality IS crucial. If pressures are placed on the funding for residential care, quality will suffer. When local authorities are forced to drive down prices again and again, the quality will be felt in a real sense.

I can see how we, in the care sector, can draw up our shutters and talk about impossibilies. There is only a question of money. And that is the issue that needs to be addressed.

As long as the government talk about saving money by keeping people at home for longer, there has to be an understanding and acceptance that for some people with some needs, residential and nursing care is the answer and it can’t be ignored or pushed to the sidelines because more can and must be done to support those who are the among the most vulnerable and who do need 24 hour care environments. Sometimes costs can’t be cut.

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6 thoughts on “Can Gerry Robinson Fix Dementia Care Homes – thoughts after the series.

  1. I watched Gerry Robinson’s programmes with much interest, having watched a dear friend succomb to aggresive dementia in a care home. The nurses (many untrained young girls from the eastern sector) cared for her physical needs well, but as the programmes demonstrated, she was one of the many left to sit all day slumped in a chair. Did she die of boredom or her disease?
    It would seem that education of staff is one of the critical factors. Strong, commited dynamic leadership is also needed to encourage the staff to be imaginative and sensitive. Low staffing is obviously a problem but it would seem that money goes into the fabric of buildings rather than further employment. I would suggest also that those who assess homes have much more rigourous criteria and training.
    As the elderly population grows then inevitably we will encounter more demented elderly people. What is their future unless we tackle the problem now and improve their quality of life and recognise that for too long we have neglected their needs?

    Over 30 years ago I was first involved in palliative care. Through education and dissemination of information, care of the dying has improved beyond all recognition.
    Is it not possible to improve the lot of those whose minds have been affected, by rigorous education, better standards and assessments of homes and far greater public awareness of their needs?

    • staff are trained

      but a powerful set at the top are stuck in their comfort zone and refusing to budge with their own interpretations they pass all exams and immediately fall back to malpractice with arguments of lack of staff and funding

      the program beautifully shows how their arguments have no basis to the contrary adhering to well thought out good practice with empathy and compassion has been shown to be a financial success as well as a moral success story

      Meanwhile thr finger of blame continues to be pointed at government ….. interestingly the progam has been removed from IPlayer already

  2. I too read Christopher Manthorp’s piece on The G website yesterday, and can only assume that he hadn’t seen both programmes.
    But I’d rather discuss the programmes than the views of another commentator. I felt that the two programmes were well made, very revealing and while shocking in places, avoided becoming an investigative shocker with associated hand wringing, by reflecting on practice and leadership (and the links between them). The programmes were refreshingly free of talking head experts and instead spent time observing and commenting on what people do at work, how they do it and the impact that makes on the lives of the people they are looking after. It was worrying how little insight some people had – I won’t name names as anyone who saw them will know, and anyone who didn’t would be none the wiser for my mentioning – and even more alarming that inspectors raised the garde form 0 star to 1 star – poor to adequate, while it was clearly unsatisfactory.
    If we get the hung parliament we desrve maybe Gerry could be given a role…?

  3. I saw the Guardian ‘Joe Public’ blog too – and replied to it. With thoughts.

    Today? All gone. Only 2 comments visible on that same blog. Wonder why? Or was it just a temporary techno hiccup?

  4. Totally agree with all the above comments

    However, what the programme failed to show and miss was the important social work role in revieiwing people in these care homes.There is/was a statuory role that all peole placede in care homes had 6 week review after placement and then annually,, or more frequently , if there were concerns… A frequent visiting social worker ,, experianced in Care of elderly dementia care , would be easily able to pick up many of the issues addressed in these programmes. Sadly many boroughs and shires do not see this as an impotant role in promoting good care of the elderly and I nspection dont pick it up . and managers in social work teams prefer the workers to pick up new cases to reach government targets ,, and get their gold star and hence their enchanced performance pay !!!!!!!!!

  5. Thanks Dot,

    For the very interesting insight into the motivators of social workers, managers and the DoH/Govt.

    Enhanced performance pay!! From the public purse too!

    I.E. Bonuses for what, just doing the very well paid job one is supposed to do??

    Just for the record, are so called ‘ self funders’ inspected or rather should they beincluded in ‘inspections’ at the timescales given, too?

    Why is anyonje with dementia classed as social care?

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